During the Israel festival tour, 178 people ventured to the biblical sites of Israel, and of those, around 140 toured Petra, Mount Nebo and the archaeological site of Sodom as an extension into Jordan.
The tour proceeded perfectly until the Eighth Day, when the war broke out. Only a scheduled sunset visit to the Mount of Olives and final group dinner had to be canceled. We were in Jerusalem and at about 8:30 a.m. the warning sirens blared, and explosions were heard. We still conducted two services on the high day Sabbath.
That night, 12 people were able to leave and return home. Others were stranded in Israel as flights were canceled, so finally everyone remaining was brought to Amman, Jordan, for safer flight departures.
Crossing the border into Jordan was grueling as some had to wait a couple of hours in the sun in 90-degree temperatures. We never really felt in danger from the war, but the protection of God was apparent.
Although the war, unfortunately, dominated the discussion and feeling of the trip near the end, the hundreds of memorable pictures, tasty meals and increased biblical knowledge will be treasured for years. Bonding with new friends always makes the Feast special.
The first half of the Feast was at a hotel along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum, Dan, Hazor, Megiddo and Mount Carmel were all toured. We drove through the Golan Heights to see the border of Syria. On the opening day of the Feast, which was also a weekly Sabbath, we followed the example of Christ (Luke 4:16) and for the afternoon second service we visited a first century synagogue that no doubt Christ visited during His ministry and then held a Bible study given by Scott Ashley. Another exciting activity was the relaxing boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
The second half of the Feast took us to Jerusalem where we visited many sites where Jesus preached and healed. But we also went to Masada, floated on the Dead Sea and visited the Qumran National Park caves. There was time for shopping and negotiating with the many merchants.
The messages were a nice balance of painting a picture of the coming Kingdom of God and including the historical biblical sites we visited.
The start of the war while we were in Jerusalem only underscored the need for the return of Christ soon. We missed visiting the Mount of Olives for the group picture, but we plan to take it together soon during the Millennium. Maybe Christ will take the picture, or He should be in it too, since He was always with us on this tour.